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England: Winter Wonderland?

More on the snow...

snow 0 °C

Even if you haven't read my last blog entry on the Superbowl and the walk home in the falling snow afterwards, you are probably aware that England has been getting some snow.

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I know that you are probably aware of this because I haven't gotten a number of emails from people who don't read my blog commenting on the snow. So obviously the news in other countries is covering the fact that London and the rest of England has snow. It's been the top story all week here, usually billed as "Breaking News!"

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Most of the emails I have gotten from friends in Canada and the USA tended to ask the obvious question for a North American, "London gets a couple inches of snow and the entire city shuts down? What the hell is wrong with you over there?!? Are the Brits really that fragile?"

At work this week also a few of my English co-workers have made comments about the reaction to the snow. "Being from Canada, you probably think we're all daft and over-reacting, don't you?"

The answer is simple. The answer is no...

...but, yes.

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The answer is no because if there is one thing you learn living in Canada, it is that winter is all about preparation. In Canada, when I had a car, I used to carry a scrapper, a snow brush and a small shovel in the trunk. The city of Toronto budgets $67 million a year to remove snow, and has a massive array of sanders, salters and plows to take care of it. Most Canadians own parkas, boots, mitts and toques. The reason we do these things is because it snows a lot in Canada.

Here in England, they don't get much snow. The snow that fell on London on Sunday night / Monday morning was more snow than the city had received in 18 years. This weeks winter weather has maxed out the budgets of most cities here in England, and lots of places have run out of sand for the roads. I see people walking around in sub-zero temperatures in light jackets and trainers, shivering. They aren't prepared for the snow because they don't get this much snow, usually.

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So, no, I don't judge the Brits too harshly for dealing badly with the snow.

However, I do think they have over-reacted somewhat.

On Monday, for example, there was no getting around in London. The buses were all cancelled, and most of the tube lines weren't running. I understand parts of the transport system not working, but basically shutting the entire thing seems overly extreme. Some reaction was warranted, but they just basically said, "that's it, let's just shut down the city."

And this week a lot of people didn't make it into work, at all. Partially this was because most of the schools were shut all week, so parents were forced to either find child care of stay home. But I know a few single folks that just didn't bother going into work at all. In the places that really got socked in, like the high altitudes or the South-west, I can understand, but even in Sheffield, which didn't get much snow at all, some things shocked me.

Yesterday a number of shops on the high street closed at noon because of the snow. The thing is, that it wasn't snowing. I had been snowing, and Sheffield could a couple inches, but by noon the snow had shopped. Yet the shops still closed up, putting up signs saying that they were shutting due to the snow.

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It has been interesting to live here through this week here in the UK as a recently immigrated Canadian. I can understand why folks are reacting to the snow, but it has been a touch humorous to watch some of the over-reactions to the snow. Often as a new arrival in a new country, I have spent a lot of time feeling a bit like a tool, still learning how to act in my new country. For the first time, though, I feel like I know more than the locals.

For this week, at least, England has decided to become a little more like Canada, and make me feel at home.

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Posted by GregW 09:30 Archived in England Tagged business_travel

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